Perhaps, with hindsight, it wasn’t the best idea to name this hike after someone who got lost in the forest. [Read Goldilocks children’s story <here>, for those who don’t know this traditional “cautionary tale that imparts a lesson about the hazards of wandering off and exploring unknown territory” (Tatar, 2002).]
Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin. Once upon a time, there were 22 hikers who met one sunny Sunday morning in the forests of Mae Takhrai NP and started walking up some big hills. On the second hill, one hiker decided that the hill was too big and that he would go back down (using
breadcrumbs GPS to guide him home). The other hikers continued up the big hills, with lots of breaks for porridge dried fruit and looking at the lovely views of the park from the ridge. After a while the leader’s phone rang to report that the returning hiker had become a lost hiker. But the leader had to take all the other 21 hikers back down to the road before he could come looking. Then three big bears set off to search for the lost hiker, who had given them a GPS position which he said he would stay at, down the far side of the ridge, when he managed to phone again. The three big bears went back up the first two big hills again, shouting and blowing their whisle, then bushwhacked down to the reported GPS position, but the lost hiker had moved again and the phone wasn’t working and a thunderstorm started and the daylight was fading. Luckily, just at that moment, the phone rang again to report that the lost hiker had found the road and was safe. After a long trek back down the hill, they all lived happily ever after.
Of course, I’m only able to retell the story in this childish way because there was a happy ending. The lost hiker must have been very worried and the would-be rescuers and supporting hikers at the park HQ were also worried. As with most children’s tales, there are some serious lessons in the story, which I think are worth re-stating:
- Everyone who’s thinking of joining our hikes should make sure they are fit and well. As advertised (see sidebar, right), we are an informal volunteer group who cannot take responsibility for others’ safety.
- The hike descriptions should be read in full, with your ability to hike the distances, elevation gains and hike times considered seriously. (If you can comfortably hike the Pilgrim’s Trail from the Channel 7 tv transmitter up to Wat Doi Suthep and back in not more than about 2.5 hours you should be OK on our average hikes.) Consider your own safety & comfort and the need to keep up with the group to avoid spoiling their day out.
- After starting a hike, if it seems too difficult, a decision should be made to turn back as soon as possible.
- Avoid hiking alone. Min group size of 4 recommended. (1 to stay with any hiker in trouble; two to go for help.) Make sure to have a contact number in case of difficulty.
- Do not leave the hiking trail and start bushwhacking unless you are sure you know where you are going. It will be much more difficult to find you. If you give a position to rescuers, stay there unless in danger.
- Fully charge mobile phone and know how to use your GPS app. But don’t rely on having a phone signal in the hills. Try to take notice of where you are, where you are going and where you have been, as you walk, especially at trail junctions. Practice noticing which way is N, S, E, W from time to time and where ridges, peaks, roads and rivers are.
A big thank you to Dave and Richard for their big bear roles. And to Anders and all the other hikers who stayed on at the park HQ, making phone calls, liaising with the park rangers, and providing moral support. I’ll let photos (and a few stats) tell the story of the main hike. Thanks to Jenny for leading the faster group, and to Janet, Minnie and Chan for additional, photos – good ones!
Main hike: 9.59 kms, up 670m (down 590m) in just under 6 hours, so a pretty slow 1.6 km/h, though that includes over 2 hrs 15 mins ‘resting’.
Rescue mission approximate additional hike stats: 6.2 kms, up/down 500m, 3 hours.
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